New biotech company receives funding to halt the progression of kidney disease

TIA has supported kidney disease research that is now underpinning the establishment of new Monash biotech company xCystence Bio.

Image of a murine kidney with autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease.
Image credit : Dr Allara Zylberberg

xCystence Bio has received funding to advance research to develop new therapeutics for Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD), a family of genetic diseases in which multiple large cysts form in the kidneys.

The spin-out company is being led by the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) in collaboration with the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS) with funding from CUREator, a national biotechnology incubator run by Brandon BioCatalyst to support the development of Australian biomedical research and innovations.

Founders include BDI’s Professor Ian Smyth and Dr Denny Cottle, along with Professor Paul Stupple and Dr Yichao Zhao from MIPS.

xCystence Bio was identified by CUREator as an early-stage biomedical innovation with long-term potential due to the group’s identification of a cell signalling pathway which is active in PKD and which, when blocked in PKD disease models, prevents the formation of new cysts and the growth of existing ones.

PKD is a progressive condition which typically worsens over a patient’s lifetime and it is one of the leading causes of renal failure requiring dialysis or transplant. The cysts themselves can be painful, and worsening of cystic disease is associated with the development of dangerously high blood pressure.

Professor Ian Smyth said that at present there is one approved treatment for PKD, however it is only marginally effective in preventing disease progression and an urgent unmet medical need remains.

“The mission of our company is to develop and optimise new safe and effective drugs that will significantly improve quality of life for those living with PKD,” Professor Smyth said.

“By blocking the signalling pathways behind the formation of new cysts, we aim to prevent the development of disease in newly diagnosed patients and to slow or halt disease progression to renal failure in individuals who have already been diagnosed.”

Professor Paul Stupple said that supporting early-stage research has never been more crucial.

“Early-stage research is a vital step in progressing the next generation of medical therapies and innovations that could make a true impact when it comes to improving health and saving lives. The CUREator funding will help the team to maximise their chances of success toward making a real difference in the lives of PKD patients and their families,” said Professor Stupple.

“Our research also benefited from TIA support through their Pipeline Accelerator voucher scheme, providing access to the Australian Translational Medicinal Chemistry Facility, a Monash-based collaborative facility, translating new discoveries in disease biology into suitably targeted therapeutics for clinical development.”

CUREator is delivered through an initial $40m in funding from the Federal Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) and $3m from Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO. CUREator was established by Brandon Capital in 2021 as a new approach for bridging the gap between where research grant funding ends and commercial investment begins.

xCystence Bio is one of five successful projects involving Monash in this second round of CUREator funding. The research teams were guided by Monash Innovation together with faculty business development professionals to support the investment cases and build the new ventures, with the end-to-end process led by Monash’s Director of Commercialisation and Business Development (Life Sciences), Dr Kathy Nielsen.

This research received media coverage from The Australian (subscription required).

About the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute Committed to making the discoveries that will relieve the future burden of disease, the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) at Monash University brings together more than 120 internationally-renowned research teams. Spanning seven discovery programs across Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Development and Stem Cells, Infection, Immunity, Metabolism, Diabetes and Obesity, and Neuroscience, Monash BDI is one of the largest biomedical research institutes in Australia. Our researchers are supported by world-class technology and infrastructure, and partner with industry, clinicians and researchers internationally to enhance lives through discovery.

About the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences The Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences is a dynamic, innovative and ambitious research institute, comprising over 400 scientists engaged in research in drug discovery, design, delivery and use. As part of the world’s top ranked university for Pharmacy and Pharmacology, MIPS’ therapeutic strengths lie in neuroscience and mental health, cardiovascular and metabolic health and global health. The team at MIPS are committed to research translation and have made major contributions to collaborative drug discovery programs that have progressed more than 30 novel drug candidates into clinical development.

About CUREator CUREator is a national biotechnology incubator run by Brandon BioCatalyst to support the development of Australian biomedical research and innovations.

CUREator provides grant funding programs targeting biomedical opportunities spanning from early-stage development through to clinical trials. Providing more than just funding, CUREator works closely with project teams to guide them through the early development phase, offering both scientific and commercial expertise and networks to support projects in meeting key commercial milestones. Funding is provided with clear milestone-driven tranches and help is provided to guide development of these assets and maximise their chance of success.